Tuesday 17 May 2022

Considering God's nature, and the motivation behind creation

Once a Modern Man has overthrown the culturally-inculcated 'materialist' picture of a mechanical-random universe without meaning or purpose; and has instead made the assumption that he lives in 'a creation' - then he will probably need to consider the nature of The Creator - i.e. God; and God's motivation in creating this reality. 

This whole question was opened-out for me by the work of William Arkle; for whom it was the beginning point of enquiry in many of his books and essays. Arkle helped me to realize that this is, in a sense, the most profound of questions; and one which may provide something like a Master Key for understanding.  

Because, as so often - it is asking the right question that is crucially-important. Most questions are unanswerable; but the Right Questions typically bring their own answers (if we let them) - without need for further investigation. 

Thus, understanding is mostly about questions and the assumptions behind them; such that wisdom is right-questioning.

What this means here is that there is a choice of how to proceed in understanding God the Creator. Do we, for example, follow most Christian 'theologians' through recorded history, and at this point switch to the mode of philosophy - the mode of (for instance) logical reasoning, as The Way to understand God?  

Or do we, like Arkle (and some other Romantic Christians) aim to understand God as a Person? 

Do we, for instance, try to imagine and intuit what it was like to be God the Creator before creation - and to understand empathically what God may have aimed-at in embarking-upon creation, and continuing the work of creating? 

This is a critical point in any Christian's development; the point at which he must choose how God is to be understood: should he regard God as a person primarily, a person fundamentally like-ourselves, and therefore understandable by us -- or something else, fundamentally unlike ourselves.

Judaism and (especially) Islam have decisively chosen to regard God as fundamentally unlike ourselves; but Christianity has been divided on this matter; as we can see even among the Gospels and Epistles - where there are passages in which God the Father of Jesus is spoken of very personally - and others in which the discussion is abstract and unlike human persons.

Each Christian - it seems - makes this choice between God as a person (like us) or God-impersonal (unlike us); although in the past this choice was usually implicit and often unconscious. 

One gets a strong impression that through history most laity (and some saints) had a very personal understanding of God while theologians and priests tended towards abstraction; with an ultimate understanding of God as impersonal, unlike-Man - and these warned against the perils and pitfalls of 'anthropomorphism'. 

Perhaps the matter can be summarized as a distinction between (on the one hand) Christians who saw the gulf between Man and God as between creator and created - and therefore with God the Creator as ultimately unlike Man; and therefore Man as unable empathically to know God, as one person knows another

This attitude means that God's motivations for creation cannot be empathically-understood, nor is intuition much help - because God is infinitely un-like us; so God's reason/s for anything (including creation) are necessarily incomprehensible. 


On the other hand; there are those Christians who regard Christianity as a religion in which we are God's children - and so ultimately like-unto God; and where Jesus Christ was a Man who was (and is) a fully-divine creator; who we can choose to follow to an eternal resurrected life as divine Men. 

From this choice of a personally-rooted Christianity; Men can (by an empathic intuition) legitimately infer something of God's probable personal motivations for embarking on creation

We may also find these inferences confirmed by statements in the Gospels (especially the Fourth Gospel called 'John') and other teachings - but we will also find contradictory statements. 

We can thus assume that God's motivations were rooted in love; and the desire for God's family of Men to be able to rise to the same level of divinity as God the Creator.

Ultimately to form an eternal and expanding Heavenly Family, who will (each in his or her unique fashion) participate in the 'ongoing' work of creation. 

In a nutshell, such a Christian may come to feel that creation was primarily 'about' Men, and aimed-at the raising up of Men from a starting state of divine-childhood, to the fullest and highest possible 'grown-up' divine-status - on a level with God the prime creator...

Raised to the same status - but not The God, not a prime creator; since there is only one such. 

And exactly this can be seen described in parts of The Gospels: the assumption is that God's intent is that what happened with Jesus will happen to as many as possible of other Men. 

Positively, we can understand God's motivations as expanding the scope and differentiation of an eternal loving family, and of raising-up at least some 'divine friends' to the level of full-co-creators - as has already happened with Jesus Christ. 

It is a motive much like that we ourselves experience in our joy at wanting to have a large and loving family, and for each of those family members to develop in his or her own uniqueness; and in chosen and joyous harmony with each other (love of Man for neighbour) and with God's creation (love of God).  

Negatively, we can say that before creation God was lonely, bored, under-stimulated and with an eternity of this stretching-ahead... 

Thus, divine creation may negatively be understood as a 'cure' for God's pre-creation state as relatively solitary, and experiencing a dull, static, uneventful existence. 

We may also realize that the only permanent (eternal) 'cure' for boredom is to dwell among other Men, who are each genuinely free agents, each with free will and individual creativity. 

It would Not be an answer to boredom for God to live among automata, un-free puppets, or any kind of reality (or virtual reality) that had been wholly-created by Himself. To avoid boredom forever requires genuine free agency among Beings. 

This may help understand why free will is an absolute requirement of creation - from the perspective of God's personal motivations. 

The above brief discussion is intended to illustrate how a serious effort to understand God, and God's motivations, can be of real help in understanding this mortal life. And I also take it as a kind of confirmation of the validity (backed by Scripture) of regarding God the Creator as a person; a person sufficiently like-unto-our-selves that God's nature and motivations are accessible to our empathy and intuition. 


Lucinda said...

I find it interesting that many seem to consider abstract-God a superior choice because we can be comfortably beneath His goodness. In practice though, I find abstract-God believers to be insufferably officious and prideful in their declarations concerning God. Well, and I must admit I know this mentality all too well. Meanwhile, when a person gets that feeling that his loving Father who sees him and understands, would like him to put away childishness, it is far more humbling, much less likely to cause him to abuse his fellowmen.

It is a paradox that cannot really be explained to those who haven't experienced the difference. I don't really blame them as much as hope that by articulating this idea I might be strengthened in recognizing this pitfall for myself and my children.

Sasha Melnik said...

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

I've come to recently interpret this at the level of the Spiritual rather than the Physical. Our Souls are in the Image of God, implying we're spiritually/divinely designed and implying we can contribute something back to the greater part. It's a matter of the potential rather than quantifiable.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SM - That makes sense to my way of thinking. The spiritual came first, and includes the material realm.

@L - I am sure that there are plenty of real Christians (on God's side in the spiritual war) who regard God in an abstract way.

But they do tend to regard this as the one correct understanding, with the primarily personal God as at best childish and at worst blasphemous - and this opens them to missing the necessity of Jesus Christ and operating as de facto monotheists.

Monotheism tends to eliminate the (absolutely necessary, as of 2022; with our corrupt and worsening churches) possibility of direct and personal contact and knowledge between the divine (especially the Holy Ghost) and Man.

I believe that we must acknowledge, and personally know, this direct 'communication' between Man and God if we are to avoid being ruled by external influences and manipulations, most of which are now evil.